UCL Grand Challenges


Contact us

Contact the team with any queries, for funding application advice or with ideas for partnerships.

Sam Balch

Director, UCL Grand Challenges

Sam Balch
Sam leads the UCL Grand Challenges team. He joined the team in 2024, and previously worked in a range of roles across government and the third sector. All his roles have been anchored around driving positive environmental and social outcomes for people and planet. In his most recent roles he worked for a national responsible business network - Business in the Community - as their Executive Director of Campaigns and Content, and as a senior Civil Servant on building decarbonisation policies and regulations.

As a senior leader, he plays an active role in supporting staff networks, in particular, faith and minority ethnic networks. Sam has significant experience in establishing and running large financial programmes, with a focus on driving positive outcomes.  Sam is a UCL alumni, with a BA in Geography & Anthropology, and MSc in Environment, Science, and Society. 

E: s.balch@ucl.ac.uk

Dr James Paskins

Assistant Director, UCL Grand Challenges

James Paskins
James joined UCL in 2001 as a Research Fellow in the Department of Civil Engineering. His research work included children’s health and travel behaviour, accessible transport, urban design and wellbeing. He is a member of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Prior to joining the Grand Challenges team, James was the programme manager for Bridging the Gaps, an EPRSC funded project that encouraged cross-disciplinary solutions for urban sustainability. Before becoming an Assistant Director, he was the coordinator for the Grand Challenges of Sustainable Cities and Transformative Technology and the UCL London Agenda.

James holds a BSc in Psychology from the University of Westminster, and a PhD in Transport Studies from UCL; his thesis investigated the role of cognitive mapping skills in children’s mobility.

E: j.paskins@ucl.ac.uk

Siobhan Morris

Assistant Director, UCL Grand Challenges 

Siobhan Morris
Siobhan joined the team in July 2018 and is responsible for a broad portfolio working with academics and external partners to facilitate impactful research, cross-disciplinary innovations, and cross-sector collaborations.

More broadly, Siobhan is an experienced knowledge broker, working to cultivate and manage strategic high-level relationships and leading and managing award-winning research projects, centres, and public engagement activities.

Specialising in equalities and structural inequities in UK society, she has published extensively on intersectional inequalities in the UK. She is also a host of Disruptive Voices, Grand Challenges' podcast series.

E: siobhan.morris@ucl.ac.uk

Emily Jennings

Programme Manager, UCL Grand Challenges  

Emily Jennings
Emily is the Programme Manager for Grand Challenges and is also responsible for the management of a cross-faculty funding scheme. Emily has worked at UCL since 2019 and was previously the Centre Manager for ERBE (Energy Resilience and the Built Environment) in the UCL Energy Institute, which forms part of the Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources (BSEER). Prior to working at UCL Emily was living in Australia, working in communications and marketing for a sustainable horticulture company in Sydney.

Emily holds a degree in Geography from the University of Manchester and has strong interests in sustainability, mental health and wellbeing and climate action. Emily is qualified in PRINCE2 Project Management and is currently studying for a further four professional qualifications within the project management field. 


E: emily.jennings@ucl.ac.uk

Zu Mayet

Programme Officer, UCL Grand Challenges  

Zu Mayet
Zu is the Programme Officer for Grand Challenges and also assists in the management of a cross-faculty funding scheme. Previously, Zu was working as a Business Change and Project Manager at Coventry University, facilitating and managing a portfolio of change projects. As part of this role, Zu worked on the Department of Education grant awards to develop the infrastructure for vocational courses.
Prior to this, Zu worked at King’s College London for seven years in various roles including overseeing the Central College student enquiry management system and managing a team of Student Services Officers. Zu is especially interested in disadvantaged and underrepresented groups and their access to higher education opportunities, and was responsible for the delivery of King’s College London, widening participation flagship programme, K+ Plus. A two-year programme to equip disadvantaged students with the knowledge, confidence and skills needed to succeed at university.

Zu holds a BA in Human Geography and MA in Migration and Law from Queen Mary, University of London, her post-graduate dissertation focused on a global migration and income inequalities. 



Ethne James-Souch 

Coordinator, UCL Grand Challenges  

Ethne James-Souch

Ethne joined the team in October 2023 and is responsible for supporting and coordinating the Grand Challenges’ work on Justice & Equality and Cultural Understanding. Ethne joined UCL in 2021 having been a Governance Administrator and the Executive Assistant to the Chair of a national charity.

For the past two years, Ethne has worked as a Personal Assistant to the six Vice-Deans in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Faculty. Ethne has assisted in developing strategic plans and creating project impact reports that link to the strategic priorities using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Ethne has a particular interest in Mental Health awareness, having completed i-act training on managing and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing and is certified mental health aware. In her previous role, she was the wellbeing and accessibility champion for her faculty.

Ethne completed a BA (Hons) in Geography from the University of West of England, with a particular interest in social regeneration and the impact of globalisation. 

E: e.james-souch@ucl.ac.uk

Dr Lisa Juangbhanich

Coordinator, UCL Grand Challenges  

Dr Lisa Juangbhanich
Lisa joined the team in October 2023 and is responsible for supporting and coordinating Grand Challenges’ work on Sustainable Cities and Transformative Technology. 

Prior to joining Grand Challenges, she has undertaken extensive research and teaching on sustainable urban development and sustainable business practice at UCL and Birkbeck, University of London. She has also assisted Prof Joanna Williams (UCL Bartlett School of Planning) in the activities and setup of Circularity@UCL, fostering collaborative partnerships with external institutions on the topic of circular cities. Her particular research interests include challenges and opportunities related to sustainable development in urban planning design and policy, corporate responsibility, and social practice.

Lisa holds a BSc in Architecture from Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), an MSc in Sustainable Urbanism, and a PhD in Planning Studies from the Bartlett School of Planning, UCL. Her thesis explored the behaviour of large private property developers and their engagement in green building practice.

E: a.juangbhanich@ucl.ac.uk

Sandhya Seetah

Coordinator, UCL Grand Challenges  

Sandhya joined the UCL GC team this month, from her previous role as UCL - Turing University Liaison Manager, based with the BEAMS Research Coordination Office, Research, Innovation and Global Engagement, where she supported the delivery of the first UCL - The Alan Turing Institute Town Hall Meeting.

She is responsible for coordinating the activities of two UCL Grand Challenges; Human Wellbeing and Global Health.

E: s.seetah@ucl.ac.uk